We have our disagreements, for sure, but one thing most of us appreciate about Boulder is the thoughtful planning over the decades that has created the livable city we adore. The wise accumulation of open space, providing relief from unsightly sprawl, and the 55-foot height limit that helps keep a sense of appropriate scale, are central to our community character.
These thoughtful policies do have consequences. And one that has finally caught up with us is affordability. We are a lush island surrounded by a moat — in itself a wonderful thing — but without some sensible adjustments to our land use regulations, we will continue on a path where only the wealthy can choose to live here.
One such adjustment now being considered that deserves our support is a loosening of our rather uptight rules for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) or “granny flats.” Our current regulations are among the most restrictive in the nation. City staff is proposing, and council is debating, incremental changes that will allow an increase in ADUs to provide much-needed diversity in our housing stock, and an antidote to the propensity to scrape our smaller, more affordable homes and build McMansions.
ADUs, by their very nature, are affordable solutions for many housing needs — elderly relatives, millennials, singles, small families. They also help middle income homeowners stay in place by offering supplemental rental income. In the face of these important benefits of ADUs, let‘s not encumber them with artificial permanent affordability regulations and other restrictions that will complicate and limit their feasibility.
By themselves, ADUs will not solve Boulder‘s housing affordability problem. But they are a step in the right direction. Let‘s all get behind this thoughtful adjustment to our land use code as one way to achieve a more fair, diverse and vibrant Boulder.